So for those of you who aren’t aware, Facebook enabled a feature this week which allows for photos of you to be “tagged” (and thus viewable by others, depending on your sharing settings) using “facial recognition” technology. This happens automatically if you don’t turn off the setting which allows them to do this.
This technology has the potential to be used for some terrible things. Google developed similar technology, but chose not to launch it because of the potential nasty consequences.
I am on the fence about whether or not I care deeply about Facebook tagging me in photos, as I generally pay close attention to my online presence, and am aware of my surroundings (and people that may be taking pictures of me) and expect that any time someone takes a picture of me it can end up online, so I better not do anything weird, but I understand that I am probably in the minority. Most people care about this.
This launch reminds me of the ill-fated launch of Google Buzz – it seems like an interesting, potentially useful and powerful technology, but forcing everyone to be opted in to the feature is just wrong. People should have control over whether or not they want other people to see who they talk with the most on Gmail on Google Buzz, or they want pictures of themselves to be automatically tagged by Facebook. This loss of control is troubling, but a reminder that these “free” services that we have so seamlessly integrated into our lives (like Gmail and Facebook) come with a cost of lost privacy.
If you want to shut down the setting, check out Chris Penn of Blue Sky Factory’s helpful video and step-by-step instructions on disabling the Facebook Facial Recognition Feature.